Peter Gago is the man responsible for creating one of the world's most iconic wines, Penfold's Grange. On a recent visit to Adelaide, Peter was nice enough to sit down and talk about the current vintage as well as share some amazing bottles of wine. During my visit Peter opened a younger Grange from the 2004 vintage along with a 2008 Yattarna Chardonnay and 2004 Block 42 Cabernet.
Peter also gave a tour of Magill Estate, where many of the higher end Penfold's wines are crafted. Pinot Noir grapes were just arriving and being crushed during the visit, so it was a rare opportunity to sit down with one of the world's most famous winemakers: . WINES TASTED IN THIS EPISODE:
2008 Yattarna Chardonnay - Much has been made about this wine being the "white Grange". When Peter mentioned half the fruit was sourced from Tasmania, I got excited because world class Chardonnay's often have higher acidity and less winemaking fluff like overly oaked malo textures. Growing grapes in colder areas that are either higher, or farther away from the equator boost the acid in the wine grapes. It makes a statement to grow half the fruit in their vineyard in Tasmania that's both higher and southerly.
The immediate expression of Yattarna is elegance and refinement. I was thinking it was going to be over the top, but is was very much restrained in the same way automobile designers at Mercedes use restraint when designing a new car. This baby had the Mercedes body with detailed leather seats and fat chrome wheels. It's less oaky and less fruit forward than past vintages. Pouilly-Fuisse lovers would likely enjoy this vintage with its crisp acid backbone, framed up with golden delicious apple, meyer lemon and lees, toasted biscuit notes. You don't have to search for the fruit on your palate, you get it front and center first, followed by refined oak nuances.
2004 Grange - If you've ever had Penfold's Grange, you get a sense of its place in history (and collector's cellars). This is not only one of the most iconic wines in Australia, but also worldwide. From its humble beginnings, Grange has been made as a wine that needed age before drinking. Collectors tuck bottles of Grange away in their cellars without even thinking of touching them for at least ten years, but knowing they'll be rewarded the longer they wait. Over time, Grange develops into a "first growth" type of wine with wonderful Cabernet and Shiraz characters along with exotic spices, shoe leather, cedar and cigar box among other notes.
So it was a bit of a surprise to see the 2004 drinking so well at this stage. I expected it to be a bit closed down, as if asleep in a long slumber. But it was lively and approachable now. It was neither tight nor overly oaked. The 2004 was a decidedly relaxed version of Grange that still exhibited the pedigree you'd expect from Grange. Somewhere along the way it seems Peter realized people want to wait, but not wait their whole life to enjoy Grange.
Dark brooding crimson color in the wine, with so much depth you could get lost staring into the abyss. Dark red fruits waft out of the glass unraveling a mystery of cassis, cocoa, vanilla, stewed plums and tertiary notes of menthol and blueberries. This was cashmere in a glass, exhibiting a more open and refined style than one would expect. It'll only get better with age, but if you have more than one bottle in the cellar take a look at it to see where it is, but also where it's going.
2004 Block 42 Cabernet - As a sommelier and wine blogger, I get to taste all sorts of different wines from around the world. Wine bloggers in general are called upon to share their thoughts, notes and experiences on the wines they taste. When Peter poured this wine everything stopped. This was a wine unlike anything I've ever tried, and quite possibly one of the finest Cabernets I've ever tasted. It was magic in a glass.
As if in a movie, I felt like I was in a slow motion scene drawn out for drama. This wine is not a wine you drink. This is a wine you experience. The Block 42 has only been made four times ever and with good reason. Penfold's uses fruit from the world's oldest operating Cabernet vines to make Block 42 in exceptional years, otherwise the fruit goes into Grange or possibly Bin 707 Cabernet.
I could try to describe what I tasted by pecking away at some tasting notes but my notes wouldn't do justice. The power and finesse on display create an amazing tension between the elements. There was purity and precision as if the winemaking team was saying, "yeah, it's Cabernet from some of the oldest vines in the world". They got out of the way and let the fruit put on a show. Then Peter put an exclamation point on the end and stated the alcohol was only 13.5%. I nearly fell out of my chair. I was guessing it was closer to 15% based on how much impact came across. I hope to be able to try this wine again in my lifetime....what a treat!